The successor to the Xbox 360 console is on desks at an unnamed Electronic Arts studio, Develop understands. The new hardware, sent to EA last month, is a very early build with no casing – it is in fact being stored inside a PC shell. EA developers are getting to grips with the tech to create first-generation software, Develop has been told. (...) Develop’s source is not employed at either company.
The source believed, but did not have certain information, that the new Xbox would launch by the end of 2012. The individual expects an announcement will be made, at least in some form, at E3. (...) A seperate inside source has told Eurogamer that an E3 reveal for the new system is "highly unlikely".
There are a number of things I would like to point out. Firstly, furnishing any third party with early hardware is a move that every manufacturer will consider very carefully. The only reason to do so is to facilitate good enough launch titles. There is no reason to supply publishers before they need to start actual development. Add the fact that launch titles usually have a slightly shorter develoment cycle - I expect no more than two years and perhaps as little as one-and-a-half - and you can safely assume that Microsoft may be shooting for a late 2012 launch at the earliest and early 2013 at the latest. This corroborates the above rumour and, in turn, may suggest that Microsoft will indeed announce the Xbox360 successor this year and use E3 2012 to announce launch dates and pricing, as well as to offer hands-on sessions.
My guess is, though, that this June would be a little early for an initial announcement. Microsoft obviously want to steal Nintendo's thunder, which must be the only reason why they would churn out a new home console, anyway. But they still have plenty of time left to do so, if they do not mind handing this E3 to Nintendo. In fact, many companies are following Apple's lead of making hardware announcements at their own dedicated events, because then the news will focus exclusively on them.
As far as motivation for a new console is concerned, both Microsoft and Sony want to play out this generation for as long as possible. But hardware defects and extra costs of one billion dollar for extended warranties aside, Microsoft learnt the lesson that it can help your installed hardware base to be first to market. Admittedly, Sony's many problems did their part to facilitate Microsoft's early lead. But regardless of that, by the time the PS3 launched, the Xbox360 already had an impressive software portfolio. This time, Microsoft will not be able to beat Nintendo. But they certainly will not want to launch last. Then again, Sony will employ the same strategy. So expect them to announce a new home console soon, as well (though I expect they will wait until the NGP has been on the market for some months).
In an exclusive statement I can add to the story, an anonymous source (who may or may not be in the know about the details of Project Café), has responded to this rumour with these words: "Microsoft better be bringing more to the table than mere hardware power."